If You Don’t Have a Training Partner…

Geoffrey asks…

I plan on starting StrongLifts 5×5. Is a training partner critical for all of the lifts? I don’t have a buddy to go lift with. So most of the time it will be just me at the gym. It’s nice to have someone to push you along and to spot but I don’t think I will be able to have that luxury. Thanks for the 5×5 report by the way, it is very comprehensive.

You don’t need a training partner at all for StrongLifts 5×5. The overwhelming majority of StrongLifts Members actually train alone. Okay, I’m back to lifting with a training partner since 2010 because I believe you’re training harder that way, but I trained almost always alone, in my home gym, from 2004 to 2009.

To be honest, you’re often better off training alone. Many guys simply don’t get it – they’ll be in the gym just to pump muscles, do a lot of talking, play with their phone, wuss out on Squats, show up late, not show up at all, etc. These people will sabotage your training and hold you back. Dump them if they don’t change.

Add that nothing lasts forever. My first trainingpartner (my mentor, whom I still consider the best trainingpartner I ever had) quit 2 years after we started lifting together. Never did he arrive late, never did he miss workouts, but then he completely quit to focus on his studies. I really had a hard time getting used to lifting alone after that because training partners can become a mental crutch.

If safety is your biggest concern, then make sure you Squat and Bench Press inside the Power Rack (or use Squat Stands with saw horses). The safety pins will be your spotters – they’ll catch the bar if you fail a rep. No need to Deadlift and Row inside the Rack, just return the weight to the floor if you fail a rep. Same goes for the Press – return the bar to your chest and then on the floor.

For motivation, you have to set specific days and times at which you’ll go to the gym. And then whatever happens, you go to the gym when that day and time comes, no matter what. For me that means lifting mo/tu/th/fr at 6pm whether I’m sick, tired, sore, not in the mood, fill in the blank. Having a plan and goal for each session is also key, but since you’ll be doing SL5x5 you’re already set.

Finally, keep your eyes open. There is right now at least one person in your area who trains like us. When you see that guy, ask him if you can train with him sometimes. That’s what I did in January 2000 – this guy in the gym was strong and had the kind of body I wanted, so I gathered the little courage I had back then and asked if I could train with him. We trained together for 2y, he introduced me to Squats, and I wouldn’t be writing this had I not met him.

And don’t worry if you’re weaker than him. My training partner lifts less than me and I don’t mind (un)loading the plates between sets. The only thing that really matters is that you…

  • Show up on time
  • Don’t complain
  • Squat.